In the pilot episode of Cartoon Network’s popular series Codename: Kids Next Door, the KND crew catch wind of an extended adult swim time and proceed to free the pool of it’s dictators in order to restore the natural order of the pool. How ironic that in 2011 Cartoon Network will tell the kids to get out of the pool as early as 9PM eastern and pacific time and 8PM in central and mountain time zones. Their highly successful adult targeted segment Adult Swim will expand another hour into Cartoon Network’s precious prime time hours. Where are the Kids Next Door when you need them?
I remember when Cartoon Network premiered shows in the ten hour. I remember when they premiered shows at midnight and even more outlandish hours. Sometimes this was a bad scenario as many great cartoons were relegated to terrible premiere slots for some, most or all of their run on the network. Ever since Adult Swim started airing every day of the week more and more of Cartoon Network’s graveyard hours slipped away. Not many long time viewers cared though and not many care today. Forcing Cartoon Network to premiere shows in hours when children might possibly be awake is not by any means a bad thing. However they could still stand to air new episodes of some of them in more convenient hours for their audiences.
It made sense to give Adult Swim overnights. There was no reason to target children in those hours except perhaps during the summer months. Cartoon Network rarely used those overnight hours wisely in the years prior to Adult Swim taking them off their hands. Adult Swim could even choose to air some of what CN would in those hours but they rarely did. Adult Swim Sunday was the first night of the network to expand to a full eight hours and did so out of necessity. They were premiering several shows at that time and wanted to give the newly arrived American Dad its due and did so by trying it out in the new ten hour.
Around this time Cartoon Network was doing somewhat dismal while Adult Swim was finding more and more success thanks to home-grown hits such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken along with their acquired ratings gold mine, Family Guy. The Boondocks and The Venture Bros. were no slouches either and various other Adult Swim original series found their varying degrees of success. Meanwhile, Cartoon Network needed to improve their total day average and overall ratings. The solution was simple, give Adult Swim the ten hour all week-long and in turn cut down on their day hours in which kids may not be watching. They did so with the help of another long running animated sitcom, King of the Hill. The Hill family have locked down the entire ten hour on most days ever since Adult Swim expanded into the tail end of prime time daily in January of 2009. A move which seemed especially unnecessary for Friday and Saturday nights where kid viewers would be their highest and adult viewers would be their lowest. None the less Adult Swim has held on to the ten hour of prime time, even when the ratings were not that favorable.
Long time viewers were shocked when Stuart Synder made the announcement earlier this year that Adult Swim would sink it’s teeth deeper into prime time in 2011. He cited that the expansion was due to Adult Swim’s continued success and not due to Cartoon Network’s recent failures but even the media could probably tell what was really going on. Earlier this year Cartoon Network decided they should forfeit another hour of prime time because they’re competitors have grinded them into a gooey mess from which they are not sure how to crawl out from. However with recent successes as proverbial feather’s in their cap one has to wonder if Cartoon Network might not give up the nine hour to Adult Swim in 2011 as planned. With an impressive line-up of new originals and acquired series airing and on the way, 2011 holds great possibilities for them. Meanwhile Adult Swim is premiering very few shows and relying on the strength of FOX comedy reruns with only a few exclusive or original series proving as effective. Despite that Adult Swim remains tremendously successful but the nine hour may be biting off more than they can chew.
One of the key reasons for Adult Swim’s success are the hours it runs. Airing overnights as opposed to all day gives Adult Swim a distinct advantage with their core 18-34 male demographic. TBS, one of Adult Swim’s major competitors which is ironically owned by the same company, loses to Adult Swim in total day performance because Adult Swim run in some of the better hours for targeting adult males. Comedy Central, SpikeTV, TNT and several other networks going after that same demographic have that very disadvantage. Nick at Nite however operates in nearly the same hours as Adult Swim and because of that it is one of the swim’s toughest competitors. Would we all become more aware that the emperor has no clothes if Adult Swim were to air all day? That may be the main reason aside from financial ones, that Adult Swim does not branch off to its own channel.
Competition is tough in prime time. No longer must they battle only cable and some network late night programs but instead they must overcome network primetime dramas and comedies. In the case of Sunday night they will be going up against the very show they rely so heavily on, Family Guy. Family Guy’s ratings on Adult Swim are superb and I imagine TBS’ Family Guy ratings are excellent as well but Sunday night FOX ratings are a whole different beast. Reruns of King of the Hill are not going to fare very well against those nor would reruns of Family Guy on cable. Syndication is another obstacle. Family Guy, King of the Hill, South Park and The Simpsons regularly run in syndication and sometimes in the hours Adult Swim might be airing Family Guy or King of the Hill. A lot of people have Cartoon Network, more people have local television and FOX. Adult Swim would be wise to try counter-programming rather than pit the same shows against each other or similar series. That seems to be about all they can do however because none of their other shows have the strength Family Guy does in reruns. King of the Hill has done well but when it comes to the ratings it’s no Futurama.
Adult Swim will continue to rely on its’ Family Guy crutch while returning American Dad to its’ arsenal in hour blocks on Saturday where Family Guy supposedly is not allowed to air and Friday alongside Family Guy and King of the Hill. The trio making a three hour block of FOX reruns which of course repeats later in the night. When American Dad joins the Saturday Adult Swim line-up replacing The Boondocks after an impressive run, Adult Swim will be exactly half FOX reruns. One would hope that gaining the nine hour will give more time to Adult Swim’s other worthwhile programs, giving them some much-needed breathing room on weeknights but it remains to be seen if that will actually be the case. Come 2013 the block gains another Seth MacFarlane series in the Family Guy spin-off The Cleveland Show. That’s quite a ways away but clearly they’re doing what they can to secure their next gravy train. Hard to believe reruns of Futurama and Family Guy in the early years of Adult Swim would lead to this mass-FOXination of the block. Luckily for Adult Swim the ratings prove their methods will satisfy but how far can they stretch their golden goose?
Cartoon Network today is much better looking place than it was when Stuart Synder made that announcement. Their new cartoons: Adventure Time, Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc., Generator Rex, Total Drama World Tour and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien have seen strong ratings for months now. Their two latest additions: Regular Show and MAD scored high premiere ratings nearly matching a new episode of Adventure Time. Even their latest live-action experiment UnNatural History has finally found an audience toward the end of its’ first season. This audience is likely to latch onto Tower Prep coming in October. Meanwhile, even more new cartoons are on the way with Young Justice and The Looney Tunes Show bowing later this year and Robotomy and Secret Mountain Fort Awesome in production. Friday nights will get a swift kick in the pants when Genndy Tartakovsky’s Sym-Bionic Titan arrives in less than one week. New Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Generator Rex and Star Wars: The Clone Wars will bow the same evening.
Cartoon Network has two solid animation premiere blocks. Comedy on Monday and Action on Friday. Sometimes they manage to beat their competition on those nights. It should be noted while these blocks generally run from seven until ten they rarely have premieres at nine thirty anymore. Most likely in preparation for losing that hour. With so much working for them and so much on the way it seems like a poor choice to cut down Cartoon Network’s prime time hours to a mere two per evening. They only just finally started using the seven slot productively after largely ignoring at least half of that hour even on premiere nights for years. You can thank Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc’s stellar performance at 7PM. However, even with that they only have two hours of prime time to work with and lots of shows they could be playing. Granted they’ve never overloaded a week with premieres but they could potentially have a premiere night nearly every day in 2011 if they lose the nine hour.
Not to sound terribly cliché but wont somebody think of the children? Nine is rather early for adult content on an otherwise largely “kid-targeted-network”. Giving Adult Swim more hours does not at all bring Cartoon Network closer to being an all-ages family oriented channel again. It does quite the opposite by eliminating “bridge” hours and pushing edgier CN shows either to earlier slots and potentially right off the network or into Adult Swim’s fold. There is potential for Adult Swim to use that time to build a bridge but I honestly do not believe that is what they will do with that hour despite claiming they wont be airing their raunchier shows before eleven. King of the Hill is not a bridge and Family Guy shouldn’t be. I suppose they might start playing Star Wars: The Clone Wars again. It has enough episodes to air on weekdays now. I would also be all for them using that time to air their shōnen anime which are by no means adult material but some of them are a bit too much for Cartoon Network’s hours.
Maybe things will all work out. Nick and Nite doesn’t seem to suffer from going up against network prime time. Likewise, Nickelodeon has plenty of hours in which it can premiere new episodes and has found great success on the early hours of prime time as well as Saturday mornings. Cartoon Network could jam-pack their prime time line-up with “must see TV” for their demographic and animation enthusiasts even without the nine hour. Everything could turn out well without hindering Cartoon Network or Adult Swim but I still have my qualms with the decision. I simply find it unnecessary. Adult Swim does not program its hours as well as they could. Yet they are rewarded for this by getting more hours to do with as they please. Meanwhile Cartoon Network could be on the verge of a break-through with its’ great new cartoons but will soon find themselves a little more compact and without the freedom the nine hour offered them. I implore the fine folks working at Turner to re-evaluate this plan to give Adult Swim the nine hour every day. Adult Swim does not need it and Cartoon Network could use it far more effectively.